The first episode of Arpeggio was very much an introductory one a few very high-octane minutes followed by an origin story for the main characters and their supertech submarine. That expositional phase of the series apparently mostly ended last week, as this week’s episode was what I would guess will be the meat of the series; naval combat that was as snazzily animated as it was thought out and tense.
Episode 1 also brought some predictable backlash, with many commentators criticizing the full-3DCG animation style. Personally, I have the same stance on it that I had on Kaiji (loved it), Aku no Hana (not a huge fan), the cars in Initial D (Eurobeat), and many other shows with atypical artstyle. Choosing to be different means nothing, it really comes down to how well it gets executed. So far, the show’s been doing a more than respectable job of that. Meanwhile, the market continues to speak for itself, as the BD for the show’s first volume is currently the 8th-most preordered one of the season and rising in spite of a significantly shorter solicitation time.*
So the first episode of Tokyo Ravens was really solid. I’ll have a better idea of where it actually is as a show in 3 or 4 weeks, but right now, it’s clear to me it’s going to be fighting Kyoukai no Kanata for the seasonal belt of best show of the season with a mid-major battle premise.* And similar to KnK, it also packs the OP that launched a thousand ships; one that teases gobs of potential while looking really freaking cool. I do have some comments on it, but I recommend just watching it first. Make your next 90 seconds a fine bunch:
Among the really interesting things this OP does is that the title comes in 40 seconds in, and isn’t punctuated by the up-tempo swinging of the song. This is something 95% of anime OPs don’t do; usually there’s a matchup between the title card and music for easy symmetry. But here they’re cracking that convention for effect, keeping the music relatively steady while bookending the title card with two strong visual moments (the sliding splitscreen image of the cast and the MC punching the screen), and it definite gives the OP a bold, ambitious feel.
But really, it does so many slick things, including the TVs-within-TVs imagery that leads to the MC punching the screen halfway in, the hovering/sliding credits, and the glasses that turn into a moon on fire. It only sometimes relies on super-framerate animation, also mixing in rapidly shifting camera angles and doing the Utena thing where it drops something ostensibly important and obviously cool-looking for half a second before flashing away. The whole sequence from 36 seconds to 75 seconds is so jam-packed with stuff like this that it’s near-impossible to break away from. The content it’s teasing intrigues me as much as the OP itself, but I’ll have more time to write about that as it actualizes its potential over the rest of October.
*Not in sales or overall popularity, certainly, but when I want to write about numbers I’ll write about numbers. My stance on them is that they correlate with a show’s quality and they’re really important when it comes to understanding trends in the type and number of anime produced, but they only correlate with moderate strength against a show’s true entertainment value. Advertising and the fact that some people easily dismiss shows on superficial things like artstyle play into that, but they’re far from the only reasons.
When anime franchises get rebooted, it’s fairly typical for the new staff to take it in a new direction and make something extra-special to celebrate the anniversary of a classic product. For examples of this done incredibly well, look no further than the 2012 Lupin III series or the 2009 Mazinger reboot. For the example of this done perfectly, take a gander at Kenji Nakamura’s take on the decades-old Gatchaman franchise and watch him take an already stellar skill set to a whole other level.
Meet the show with the year’s best villain, the year’s best protagonist, the year’s best two-person dialogue chain, the year’s most relevant-to-society themes, the year’s second-best opening (got Jaeger’d by the number one), the year’s best panda, and the best one-word BGM track in anime.
Showing is superior to telling, but not all showings are created equal. One of the ways to tell a high-class pro director from a replacement-tier one is the way they make a situation clear with the first snap of the camera. Case in point: those first 3 seconds of that shot after Haru saved Makoto. The way one set of feet was dragging and the other was limp immediately spelled out what was going down. Mix in effective not-use of music (just rain and heavy breathing), and you get an immediate impression of the state Makoto was in. It was a bit of imagery that felt like something adapted from an award-winning manga, except Free is a novel adaption that had to make its own storyboards.
One look and it’s pretty obvious someone’s not alright
Drew: Uchoten Kazoku might seem to some to be a far-out series. For me, it’s attacking fairly familiar territory, just doing it using tanuki stuck in frog-shaped polymorphs instead of humans in mundane lifestyles. I think it’s less artsy fare with a message and more much closer to a character-driven slice-of-life drama that happens to involve smooth, fancy animation. And I’m loving it so far. It’s obviously still got places to go and things to develop, but I think it’s a 7/10 if the two episodes that came out so far were a stand-alone ova series, which is pretty good in my book.
Based on what I’ve seen of reactions to Free on the internet, it seems like a large quantity of people are ruling it out with one glance at the promo material rather than 20 minutes of episode time. It’s becoming increasingly obvious how much of a shame that is, because this show is complete in ways it didn’t even have to be to be an enjoyable ride.
Much has been made of the fact that the buzz-heavy Free represented Kyoto Animation/KyoAni in a departure from their typical character styles. Personally, I couldn’t give two bits about what other people had been hyping this show for. I was honestly just into it for the dynamic photography showcased in the trailer. And what do you know? It didn’t disappoint.
With the obvious exception of Ozamu Tezuka, no single person has created more classic anime characters than Go Nagai, the father of super robots (Mazinger Z) and perverted comedy (Harenchi Gakuen). So it makes sense that his characters getthe reboottreatmenta lot. Demon Prince Enma is the most ambitious interpretation of his work I’ve seen to date, taking characters from a comedy featuring demons with butts for heads, aging them 10 years, and thrusting them smack in the middle of a dark, shrimp and grits horror story.
Point of order before I begin, there is a certain flavor of story arc that only the best of creators can play. I call it the “dice in a cup” arc. It’s the term I use to describe what happens when characters in a scenario feel like dice spinning around in a heavily-shaken cup, slamming against each other and changing trajectories in way that feel at the same time natural and totally unpredictable. This is one of those things that’s very eye-testy; it’s very hard to quantify, but you know it when you see it. Demon Prince Enma has one such arc, a testimony to its general excellence.